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TRIUMPH BLAZE: THE AFTERMATH

Published: 22 April 2002

Updated: 19 November 2014

Triumph’s insurers face a bill of over £25 million to rebuild the factory after the devastating fire, which firefighters say was caused by a petrol leak.

And Triumph plans to used the cash to make the brand even stronger by rebuilding the factory so it contains the very latest technology.

The insurance pay-out also covers lost income from sales and workers’ wages. But many Triumph dealers face hardship because the supply of some new bikes will dry up.

There are no Bonnevilles left to sell in the UK, and the 955i Daytona is likely to be the next model to run out (see separate story).

As the clean-up began at Hinckley, with bulldozers moving in to tear down the charred remains, investigators quickly discovered the blaze started when fuel vapours were ignited by a central heating pilot light.

A massive explosion ripped through the plant, leading to the inferno which destroyed the production line and took three days to totally extinguish.

Triumph initially said that it might be back in action in two months, but now managing director Karl Wharton has admitted: " We are looking at between four and five months now. "

Production has stopped, leaving the firm with around 1800 bikes in this country – as well as the ones which were already in showrooms. Supplies are likely to run out at the end of May.

But the level of insurance cover means it won’t be out of pocket. Bosses are refusing to reveal who the cover is with, but Wharton said: " People keep asking if we’re finished, if this is the end. But we will be back. We are fully covered for this and our future is safe. We will get the factory rebuilt and come back stronger than ever. We have learned a lot over the years and we will use this setback to do things even better in future. "

The Jacknell Road factory has been Triumph’s manufacturing plant for 11 years, and the firm was outgrowing its cramped production line. Wharton added: " We were planning to move some of our equipment to the new factory in August anyway. Because of this we will bring that forward.

" It means we can take what little advantage there is from this situation. We know what we will move to the new factory, but we won’t go into details. "

Insiders suggest the assembly line is likely to be on the move.

A source said: " The way production works is one thing they will look at closely. They were short of space and they can now give themselves a lot more room. There will be areas where they will think ‘we wish we’d done it differently 11 years ago’ and now they will be able to do that. "

While the factory is rebuilt, Triumph engineers will continue to work on future models, like the 2.2-litre Twenty Two three-cylinder cruiser and an updated TT600. The firm is adamant both will be launched on time.

Triumph’s research and development department is on the same site as the fire-damaged factory, but is housed in another unaffected building.

Wharton said: " In a strange way, it will help our guys concentrate on new models. While we are rebuilding the factory, they will be able to carry on their work without interruption from the production department. We will have one new bike to show this year and another in Spring. This won’t affect that. "

Office staff were able to carry on as normal in the firm’s second factory, about a mile away, using a back-up computer system. And many of those from the destroyed production line helped with the clean-up.

Wharton said: " We had staff coming to the factory on the Saturday after the fire, asking what they could do to help. They have been fantastic. "

Specialist cleaning contractors were also called in to clean up the areas of the factory which were structurally safe, but affected by deadly soot.

The powder came from carcinogenic rubber found in the seals on brake calipers. Experts had to clean machines in the engine manufacturing area and paintshop before anyone was allowed into those parts of the factory.

Dealers are also amazed at how the firm has kept a typically British stiff upper lip throughout the tragedy.

Steve Lilley, boss of Jack Lilley Motorcycles in Shepperton, Middx, said: " We ordered our parts as usual on the Monday after the fire and they arrived the next day, just as they would if nothing had happened. The people at Triumph have been working their butts off to get things right. "

Triumph has also insisted this year’s 100th Anniversary celebrations will carry on as normal. The firm has booked Towcester racecourse in Northants for a massive party on June 15, with riders turning up from across the country.

Marketing boss Bruno Tagliaferri said: " We are still going to celebrate, we won’t let this setback affect that. "

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